William Oscar Black, Union City Pioneer and Civil War Veteran
William Oscar Black was an early Union Mills-Union City pioneer who in wartime cared for the wounded in several Civil War battles and in peacetime contributed to the growth of Union City.
William was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania on May 26, 1822, and when he was still quite young he moved to Erie and clerked in the store of Clark and Metcalf. In 1847, he came to Union and took charge of the large lumber firm owned by William Truesdale of Erie and Joy & Webster of Buffalo, New York.
When William Black came to Union the old mill owned by Judge Miles and a hotel and small grocery in the same building kept by Captain Abram A. Tourtellotte were the chief businesses in town. William joined in the commercial growth of Union by supervising manufacturing lumber and shingles for the firm for seven years and shipped the products by teams to Erie.
In 1854, William O. Black bought a large tract of land, part of the land that Judge Miles owned. After he bought the land, William sold lots for himself and William Miles and the lots proved a good financial investment. The Borough of Union City is located on the land that William bought.
In 1860, William was elected County Treasurer and his duties were more difficult than usual because Erie County issued a large amount of money to pay the soldiers a local bounty. His final settlement with the county and state did not contain one error in his accounts. He also helped raise the 83rd, 111th, and the 145th Pennsylvania regiments.
On June 4, 1861, William enlisted in Company B, 111th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and he served as a surgeon doing active work at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, where his brother John was pieced by three bullets. The United States government gave him three honorable discharges as a volunteer nurse and he and George W. Starr of Erie went South to take the soldiers vote. William served in the 111th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry until July 15, 1865.
Some of the members of the 83rd Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry from Union City include Walter Ames, George F. Bennett, William W. Bennett, Theophilas C. Chambers, Lucius M. Chapin, Abraham O. Gillett, Daniel W. Hatch, James J. Lyons, Clark McAllister, LaRue Rockwell, George Harrison Sturtevant and Seth Sturtevant. All of them are buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Members of the 111th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and William’s comrades from Union City include William F. Blanchard, Walter R. Clough, Otto Kammerer, Dexter King, Jefferson Triscuit, Smith Wilmer or Wymer, and Alvin W. Wood. They are all buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Soldiers from Union City in the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry include John B. Black, brother of William O. Black. John earned the rank of major and was wounded in battle in three places. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Asabel D. Sturtevant, Chandler D. Sturtevant, Melville D. Clark, Charles Carroll, Amos Clark, Frank B. Harris, James J. Harris, Lawrence Price, Frank Sherwood, George W. Sherwood, Charles S. Steadman, and Henry H. Tyron are all from the 145 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and are all buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Union City.
At different points in his career, William Black filled nearly every important Union City Borough office. He served the city as burgess, a member of council, and postmaster. The Union City Times of April 2, 1891, said he discharged his duties in “that energetic, enterprising, and satisfactory manner that proved a credit to himself and an honor to his constituents.” In 1864, William bought an interest in a factory in Union City that manufactured large oil barrels. When the factory failed after three years, he lost nearly all of his money and he retired from business.
After he retired, William Black spent many of his days at the Times office and was always welcomed for the “wealth and geniality of good counsel” that was part of his daily conversation.
On March 28, 1848, William married Elizabeth Sterrett, daughter of Judge Sterrett of Erie, and they set up housekeeping in Union where they lived all of their lives. They had seven children, and all survived him but Hennie who died young. When William died on April 12, 1891, all of is six children but Miss Nettie of Union City and William O. Black Jr. of Chicago were married with families of their own. They remembered their father as a man who made friends with all, big-hearted and generous to a fault.
In March 1891, William left Union City in good health and good spirits to visit his daughter, Mrs. Ada Jones in Chicago and his daughter Emma B. Smith in LaPorte, Indiana. After he arrived in Chicago he caught a severe cold, but he managed to reach his daughter Emma in LaPorte, Indiana. When he arrived in LaPorte, he called a doctor who diagnosed him as severely ill with bronchitis which developed into pneumonia. William was ill for several days, but finally his doctor wired the news to Union City that he “is better, and with good care will pull through.”
The next morning news of his death reached Union City. His death was peaceful and his wife and three of his children were at his side. His family brought William's body back to Union City for his funeral.
M.W. Shreve was the mayor of Union City when William died and he asked that all factories and stores be closed during the funeral services, and a “ further mark of respect I request is that City Hall be draped in mourning.”
Six former burgesses of Union City , Gary Smith, J.W. Hunter, J.F. Kamerer, D.G. Smiley, J. Canfield and M. J.W. Sproul, Esq. served as pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers were N.T. Humes, Captain Jas. Crawford, Captain W.C. Hay, Captain J.L. Webb, W.J. Robinson, and Judson Walker. Dr. A.C. Sherwood, W.V. Woods, F.M. McClintock, J.R. Mulkie, D.A. Wright and H. Persons delivered eulogies.
Along with William Miles, William O. Black was one of the founders of Union City and it is fitting that he is buried in Evergreen Cemetery along with many of the soldiers he guided and protected.